Dozens killed when dam breaks in Kenya

Henry

At least 45 people died in the early hours of Monday morning when a temporary dam broke near a town in Kenya’s Rift Valley, police said. The country is ravaged by torrential rains and floods.

This disaster brings the death toll during the rainy season from March to May in Kenya to more than 120. East Africa is experiencing heavier rainfall than usual which is exacerbated by the El Niño weather pattern.

Residents say the tragedy happened in the middle of the night near Mai Mahiu in Nakuru. Water flowed down a hill and swept away everything in its path. A road was blocked, trees fell, houses were washed away and vehicles were swept away.

“It sounded like an earthquake and an oncoming train,” said Margaret Wangechi, a 52-year-old teacher.

A senior officer at Nakuru police told AFP by telephone that 45 bodies have been found so far. Nakuru Governor Susan Kihika said at least 110 people were being treated in hospitals.

Rescuers are still searching the debris. They make hoes and in some cases use their bare hands in a desperate search for survivors.

“We found some of the bodies in trees. We don’t know how many more are trapped under the mud,” Stephen Njihia Njoroge, a local resident involved in the emergency service efforts, told AFP.

The disaster occurred at the Old Kijabe Dam, a boundary that formed naturally over decades following railway construction work by Kenya’s former British colonial rulers.

The Red Cross has set up a temporary office at a local school to help families who have lost loved ones.

Home Affairs Minister Kithure Kindiki said the government has directed security and intelligence officers to investigate all state and private dams and water reservoirs in their jurisdiction within 24 hours and recommend cases for mandatory evacuation or temporary relocation.

Officials said Saturday that at least 76 people have died in Kenya since March, with more than 130,000 left homeless.

Schools were forced to close their doors. The Ministry of Education announced on Monday that they will not open the doors again until May 6.